Dear COTE Members:
Since our membership voted overwhelmingly in 2019 to make climate action our top priority, we’ve marshaled our resources toward this essential fight. Early in 2020, the AIA released a new Climate Action Plan to mitigate sources and owning the significant impact the building industry's footprint has on climate; to adapt to the impact that buildings and other sources make on the environment by transforming our practices; and to catalyze every architect to act.
The Committee on the Environment has, of course for a long time now, confronted the effects of climate change, but embraced the fight for climate action. I want to acknowledge your persistence and say that the AIA could not have taken the steps it has taken without your unwavering determination all these years, even if many of you are new to COTE’s ranks. I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge Ed Mazria’s timely and well-deserved Gold Medal as an important indicator of where AIA is headed based on years and decades of thought leadership by volunteers like Ed, like the members of COTE, and all the others in our ranks who have designed with the environment, not in spite of the environment.
The fight for climate justice is something I want to draw into this equation and with AIA’s membership in the months ahead. The AIA is focused on climate action and climate justice in concert, not in isolation, and together they are the keys to dismantling systemic racism and marginalization. They are the keys to a just and equitable world, and I think the AIA is doing some things now that gives us perhaps the strongest chance of affecting real change.
For one, the Framework for Design Excellence has been recently updated--a veritable playbook for architects to pursue a built environment that is zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy. The Framework defines design strategies across 10 measures (inspired, of course, by your own bellwether awards program, the COTE Top Ten), and it provides best practices, case studies and high-impact strategies across each of the ten measures. So, no one has to start from scratch.
Why is that important? Some of you have heard me speak about adaptation being a chief value that architects embody, but adaptation is so much more productive when you're not starting from scratch. Adaptation is possible when you can find efficiencies in what you’re doing so you may reach your goals sooner. Climate action presents the most urgent reason to meet those goals, so let’s give ourselves an advantage and heed this Framework.
Another key initiative is the 2030 Commitment, our platform for architects, engineers, and owners to work together toward achieving a carbon neutral built environment by the year 2030. We released our highest ever numbers in 2019. Signatories recorded a 49 percent reduction in predicted energy use intensity. That’s the greatest reduction in the program’s history. It’s equivalent to avoiding 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions relative to 2030 baseline-equivalent buildings. That figure represents the same level of carbon that is sequestered by 26 million acres of forest in one year.
We have a long way to go, of course. But results like these show we really can make a difference and that we must push forward to continuously meet our responsibilities as architects, as citizens, and as stewards of our planet.
Peter Exley, FAIA, 2021 AIA President